Iconic Toronto Streetcars: Transit History and Walking Tours
Streetcars Move The City
CLRV streetcar travels west on Dundas St. at University Ave.
Iconic Toronto is a project by Tdot Shots & the Toronto photography community.
Streetcars of Toronto
From the PCC to the CLRV to the modern Flexity Outlook, the streetcars of the city are an essential aspect of the urban landscape.
Can you name the TTC streetcars in the image below? Which is your favourite? Try to identify each one and click the hotspot for more information.
Did You Know?
Toronto has the largest streetcar transit system in North America.
The system is operated by the TTC, also known as the Toronto Transit Commission. The system also operates bus routes and subway lines in partnership with a Greater Toronto Area regional agency called Metrolinx.
The TTC celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2021. Happy birthday! 🎉
We are excited to offer “Spadina Streetcar” walking tours up Spadina Ave to the Toronto Archives for the 100 Years of Moving Toronto photo exhibit. Contact us to join our weekday streetcar-themed walks. Perfect for photographers and transit geeks. We offer them until September.
Learn more about the Toronto streetcar system and the TTC history.
Toronto Transit Commission logo
A Streetcar Named Toronto appeared on the city streets in 2019. Otherwise known as CLRV #4178, the streetcar was painted by a dedicated crew led by artist Jacquie Comrie. This special streetcar operated on downtown streets in the final year of the iconic CLRV’s operation. In this image, the streetcar is heading south on Bathurst across the Sir Isaac Brock truss bridge.
Streetcar Map: Routes and Reach
In the map below red lines represent the city’s streetcar routes. The green and yellow lines are the Bloor-Danforth and Yonge-University-Spadina subway lines.
The Toronto streetcar system is currently focused on the central downtown area but it does extend very far east and west, and new routes will bring streetcars or LRT (light rail transit) to the north of the city (Eglinton Crosstown).
The streetcar system has always been a prominent part of the downtown, crossing the city via routes on College, Dundas, Queen and King, and reaching as far as Long Branch Loop in the west end and Neville Loop in the east of the city. These east-west routes are very lengthy. The 501 Queen route is 24 km (15 miles). In the map image, Long Branch is at bottom left, past the Humber Bay, and Neville Park is at bottom right, in the city’s eat-end Beaches neighbourhood.
TTC Bus and Streetcar Route Map 1925
Much of the map has not changed since 1925, but streetcars certainly declined in the city, just as they did elsewhere in North America, throughout the mid 20th century.
Streetcars used to travel east-west along Bloor, and this route was retired with the opening of the Bloor-Danforth subway in 1966. Streetcars used to travel along Dundas West north of Bloor (through the Junction neighbourhood).
Throughout the 1900s, before the widespread adoption of the automobile, train travel via intercity railways and streetcars was very important. By the 1950s the city moved toward digging subways, such as the Yonge St. subway (opened 1954), and serving the outer parts of the city with bus service rather than rail.
“Streetcar” Walking Tour for Photographers and City Lovers
Downtown Routes / Spadina and Bathurst Streetcar Service
The heart of the streetcar system is the quadrant formed by Bloor in the north, King in the south and the Spadina and Bathurst routes which run parallel in the downtown west. If you stand at Spadina and College or Spadina and Dundas, a few minutes walk or ride south, you will see streetcars, vehicles, and bikes zipping along with the throng of pedestrians. It’s such a unique transit hub we offer walking tours there throughout 2022. Contact us for details.
This photo looks north toward the University of Toronto’s Daniels Building (Architecture Faculty). In frame a CLRV streetcar, Flexity streetcar and various pedestrians and cyclists.
Tour Stop: College and Spadina
The busy intersection of College Street and Spadina Ave sits just north of Chinatown and south of the University of Toronto. Street photographers mix with people walking and a busy mix of transit and vehicular traffic.
Cultural and architectural landmarks include the iconic El Mocambo and the Daniels Building, known for rock history and architectural history, respectively.
Transit City: Streetcars and Light Rail Outside of the Core
In the future more streetcar and LRT lines will be constructed, some in the original route configuration known as the Transit City plan.
While the Eglinton LRT is still under construction (and scheduled to begin service in 2022) the area north of Bloor is currently served by routes such as 512 St. Clair (operated originally as Toronto Civic Railways from 1913).
Other than subways which reach substantially into north Toronto via the Yonge and University Spadina, and Sheppard lines, bus service rules the areas outside of downtown known as the inner suburbs.
About Our Book Project
In December 2022, we will publish a crowd-funded and crowd-sourced photo book, Iconic Toronto: From Streetcars to Skyscrapers. It will be a coffee-table style hardcover book with beautiful photography and essays written by transit and architecture enthusiasts.
In summer 2022, we begin exploring “Streetcars and Skyscrapers.” From street level to the sky, transit and architecture are the focus of our team of creators documenting the visual feast that is downtown Toronto. Contribute to our blog or our book. Some chapters of the book will originate as blog posts.
Join our walking tours and photography meetups, contribute articles and photos to our blog, and then consider getting involved with the book project.
Volunteers are welcome. Photographers and writers may apply to contribute. We look forward to collaborating with you. If you have any questions please reach out.
CREDITS: All photographs on this page by Mike Simpson aka Tdot Mike, or public domain, or by the following: CLRV x2 image by @jackjustjumped and pedestrians and streetcar in the rain by @ttc_photography_7300